US open to joint patrols with PH in disputed sea – envoy
MANILA, Philippines – The United States is open to the proposed joint patrol with the Philippines in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), US Ambassador Philip Goldberg indicated on Wednesday, February 3.
“I don’t think there are limitations to what the US can do. I could say yes,” Goldberg said in a press conference, when asked about the Philippine suggestion to have joint patrols with the superpower in the disputed area.
The Philippines had earlier raised the possibility of such joint patrols, after its Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the two countries.
Goldberg refused to categorically say if there would be joint patrols in the disputed waters, as he maintained that EDCA is not meant to solve maritime disputes in the region.
But he reiterated that the US will continue to follow international law and exercise freedom of navigation in the contested waters.
“I’m not going to announce anything about joint patrols. I’m going to say we will continue to exercise freedom of navigation, operations. I don’t want to prejudge how we will carry out the defense relationship. But we have a deep interest in assuring freedom of navigation in those waters,” Goldberg said.
Beijing earlier slammed Washington for sailing near the islands claimed by China. (READ: China: US island sail-by 'dangerous and irresponsible')
Philippine officials earlier suggested the joint patrol, citing the "need for more collaborative presence in the South China Sea," but did not specify the area where this would be carried out.
The Philippines and China are claimants to the South China Sea, along with Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam. – Rappler.com